Miscellaneous

Introducing the Sharkbait VW T4 Campervan

My lik­ing of Volk­swa­gen vehi­cles has been with me since my school days, I remem­ber the excite­ment every time a new issue of Volksworld was released. I was sure my first car was going to be a clas­sic Bee­tle, I real­ly liked the Cal­i­for­nia look at the time (mid 1980s).

As with so many things in life, my dream of own­ing a VW as soon as I passed my test was dashed. When I sug­gest­ed to my par­ents I want­ed a Bee­tle for my first car I was quick­ly told that would not hap­pen, “Son, you need some­thing more reli­able and easy to fix!”, I end­ed up with a 1984 Ford Escort 1.3L which I did actu­al­ly like. Of course being able to dri­ve and the free­dom that went with it was no doubt the main rea­son for my lik­ing towards it.

By now, I was in reg­u­lar work. My jobs usu­al­ly required a need for a sim­ple prac­ti­cal car so I moved to a 1992 Ford Fies­ta, then a 1989 Ford Escort fol­lowed by a 1995 Vaux­hall Cav­a­lier GL, a 1997 Renault Lagu­na, a 1997 Peu­geot 306TD, a 2001 Lexus IS200 Sport and final­ly a 2004 Audi A4. The A4 was the first time I had bought a vehi­cle with my per­son­al life more in mind than my work. By this time I was camp­ing away a bit, hav­ing not long been intro­duced to surf­ing. Prob­lem was, it was a 1.8T petrol, it would cost a for­tune to trav­el to Devon and the surf­boards end­ed up on the roof any­way so I could have got away with some­thing much small­er. Besides, I nev­er real­ly got attached to the Audi, it was plagued with prob­lems since I bought it.

The A4 was bought in sum­mer 2010, but it was sold at the begin­ning of 2011 when I final­ly decid­ed I hat­ed using a tent but want­ed to con­tin­ue going to North Devon for the week­ends and learn to surf. The deci­sion was done and with the Audi sold I was run­ning around in an old Nis­san Almera I bought for a few hun­dred pounds while look­ing for a van. I have to say, I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised with that car and made a cou­ple of hun­dred pounds when I sold it, result!

After a cou­ple of months of scour­ing eBay, Auto­trad­er, Gumtree and the like, I came across this white T4 in Not­ting­ham which looked tidy and ticked near­ly all my box­es. I didn’t want a van which had any mod­i­fi­ca­tions, being that I want­ed to see that through myself. I had pre­vi­ous­ly ren­o­vat­ed a flat, land­scaped my gar­den with koi pond and now need­ed a new project. The advert read “The first per­son to offer me the full ask­ing price can take it”, the price was £2,800 and hav­ing seen a fair few vans about I went for it. Offer accept­ed and I planned a vis­it to pick it up on East­er Sat­ur­day 2011.

Original photo posted on eBay
Orig­i­nal pho­to post­ed on eBay
Original photo posted on eBay
Orig­i­nal pho­to post­ed on eBay
Original photo posted on eBay
Orig­i­nal pho­to post­ed on eBay

My friend David drove me up to Not­ting­ham, we took a look over the van and it seemed all ok. The sell­er, who used it for his mobile dis­co, had told me he had sub­se­quent calls offer­ing more than his ask­ing price, I believe he would have, the van was real­ly tidy. The only thing that did con­cern me was the brake warn­ing light on the dash­board but the brakes seemed fine and I took off back to Wilt­shire.

My friend David leant against his van next to mine, I only wanted a shot of my van but he has to be in every photo.
My friend David leant against his van next to mine, I only want­ed a shot of my van but he has to be in every pho­to.

The dri­ve back from Not­ting­ham was fan­tas­tic actu­al­ly, I have to say from that point on I knew I was going to love this van. Apart from the alloy wheels there was noth­ing mod­i­fied, the sus­pen­sion was high and it did tend to roll a bit but the new dri­ving height was excel­lent, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the A343 between the A34 and Andover. The one box the van didn’t tick was the engine, ide­al­ly I would have gone for the 2.5tdi, but I was soon over that as I thought it was a lot bet­ter than I feared.

First thing I did when I got home to Ames­bury was put some fuel in, it was after doing this that I was wel­comed to the world of a “reli­able” Vol­skwa­gen T4, not! The words of my dad from buy­ing my first car rang in my mind. I tried start­ing the van but it just wouldn’t turn over, noth­ing, nada. For­tu­nate­ly I had arranged break­down cov­er and it wasn’t long before the recov­ery truck arrived. A lit­tle bit of tin­ker­ing and the recov­ery chap dis­cov­ered there was no pow­er get­ting to the starter motor, he got the van going using a piece of wire and I drove it home, know­ing I would need to look over the van first thing in the morn­ing, it was now dark and quite late.

Next morn­ing I was out tak­ing the van apart, I had already dis­cov­ered the web site “VW T4/T5 Forum”, and I knew it was going to be a sav­iour for me. On a bit of diag­noses I realised the igni­tion switch was faulty. Just a few quid and a day lat­er it was fit­ted and my trou­bles were over, or the first one was any­way.

I already had ideas of how I was going to con­vert the van, but now I had the actu­al vehi­cle which meant I could start tak­ing mea­sure­ments and plan­ning for real.

The over­all look of the van was inspired by some­thing not Volk­swa­gen at all, in fact it was the Range Rover sport. When look­ing for ideas I came across a pho­to of Range Rover sport with a black and ivory inte­ri­or, I real­ly liked it and decid­ed to base my build on this.

Range Rover Sport Interior
Range Rover Sport Inte­ri­or

The build began, start­ing with iron­ing out a few prob­lems and then craft­ing and design­ing my way to a full camper­van. The full build thread can be found on the VW T4 Forum site (Click here).

Below are some images of the inte­ri­or which were sent to DVLA to reg­is­ter as a motor­car­a­van.

The cab area including the personalised headlining
The cab area includ­ing the per­son­alised head­lin­ing
The Vitrifrigo c39i fridge, which will keep everything cool for a few days.
The Vit­rifri­go c39i fridge, which will keep every­thing cool for a few days.
When laid flat, the bed is just short of a king size
When laid flat, the bed is just short of a king size
The tray above the fridge can be tucked away when not in use.
The tray above the fridge can be tucked away when not in use.
The back of the van, with storage under the bed
The back of the van, with stor­age under the bed

As I write this arti­cle, I have not had the van for sev­er­al weeks. The build was com­plete last year and I have cov­ered many miles since, enjoy­ing great week­ends and longer away expe­ri­enc­ing the camper­van lifestyle. The only prob­lem with this is the less pleas­ant side, the fact that vehi­cles need main­te­nance and fix­ing. Since the begin­ning of Jan­u­ary 2015, the van has had a gear­box rebuild and is now hav­ing a leaky fuel pump fixed. Hope­ful­ly though, it will be back on the road by this com­ing week­end.

Next plan is to add some Autosport side skirts and to get the odd knock and ding touched up before I do a full pho­to shoot all around the UK.

I will be using this site to post fur­ther devel­op­ments with the van, includ­ing updates on loca­tions, mod­i­fi­ca­tions and gen­er­al camper­van lifestyle views. I hope any­body read­ing this finds it use­ful and inspir­ing, just as I found many that lead me to this point.

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The Author

sharkbait

sharkbait

A complete self-confessed VW nutjob. My VW T4 is actually my first and only VW I have ever owned but I love it. Having bought my van as a straight forward panel van, I enjoyed the process of converting it how I wanted. Now the van is all done, it's getting out and exploring I love to do.